Doing Yoga in the Park

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Starting out this webpage with the yoga project I’m working on now: outdoor yoga. I started Yoga in the Park for the summer at Lions Park in Port Coquitlam, a city east of Vancouver in Canada. The idea behind it is to build the community and get people to experience the benefits of yoga in an informal setting even if they have never done yoga before.

There is nothing like doing yoga outside–doing vriksasana under actual trees, having the dome of sky greet your gaze when moving into ustrasana. If you get the chance to do it, take it. Yes, break the membrane of self-consciousness and see what happens.

Here are a few pointers for an enjoyable adventure:

  1. For the first time, go somewhere you feel comfortable, and a local park works well in this regard. Beach yoga is indeed amazing, but grass is a bit more forgiving than sand. And a park’s more likely to have trees (see #2).
  2. Pick a tree under which to spread your mat. Trees serve several purposes: as support to stabilize balancing postures (in the absence of walls), as a screen to shield you from a potential audience, as shade when saluting the sun gets a bit too intense (we got record heat this summer).
  3. Doggie bags. In popular parks, more than likely you will come across “gifts”. It’s good to scan the area before setting up.
  4. Have an idea of postures you’d like to do. Sun salutations are a brilliant start, especially if you’re there in the morning and can face east to greet the sun itself. I strongly recommend incorporating heart openers and poses in which the gaze tracks up toward the tree tops, like triangle, reverse warrior, camel, etc. (Stay tuned for follow-up posts on asana series that lend themselves to the great outdoors).
  5. If it’s chilly, start with dynamic movement like Surya Namaskar (sun salutations), to get heat going in the body.
  6. There might be little critters in the grass. Treat these like any other distraction: brush it away (or ignore it if you are one of the rare individuals with superhuman concentration) and come back to your focus.
  7. Dress in comfortable clothes.
  8. Start off by standing in tadasana (mountain pose). Take a few moments to observe your surroundings. Notice  the sounds without assigning value to any of them (there are no “bad” sounds–even though stilling the mind around the sound of that cement truck may be challenging). Notice the feel of the air against the skin, the feel of the earth under your feet.
  9. Come with a sense of adventure and humor. There are distractions outside. There are factors that cannot be controlled. The ability to laugh–at oneself, at the situation–and then continue serves in any worthwhile endeavor.

 

Yoga in the Park is inspired by a similar venture that was begun in my old neighborhood in East Vancouver at Dude Chilling Park. If you happen to be in the Vancouver area during mild weather, check in with my Facebook page to for the times I’ll be doing led classes.

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